Well, it's official. We have passed the glamorous, winter wonderland part of the season and entered the don't-want-to-leave-the-house-because-it’s-downright-freezing part called January. If the winter blues are getting you down, you're not alone. Perhaps the worst thing about this time of year is the fact that many of us are feeling pressure to detox more than ever. It's safe to say that most people overindulge over the holidays. One too many of grandma's cookies here and a way too big second serving of mashed potatoes there, can add up disturbingly quickly, and as hard as it seems, January really is a great time to recharge the diet batteries. A great idea theoretically, but somehow a salad just doesn't seem quite right when it's 10 degrees outside.
If you ask me, the key to surviving winter is having a well-stocked pantry. While produce options are less than impressive, so much healthy, hearty eating can be done successfully with the help of a few handy dry goods. Cooking at home is so much healthier (and more wallet-friendly) than going out, or worse, ordering in. Lucky for us, Surdyk's Cheese Shop is a specialty foods store with so much more to offer than just cheese. Take a quick walk through our aisles and you’ll find a number of amazing, even surprising pantry staples that can help reenergize even the most tired of winter culinary routines.
My pantry wouldn’t be complete without:
M’hamsa Couscous: This stuff is nothing short of incredible! Hand-rolled and made with sea salt and a heavy dose of extra virgin olive oil, you’ve never had couscous quite like this before. Choose the original or whole wheat version—both are so flavorful you’ll barely want to dress them up. I like to eat my M’hamsa with just a squeeze of lemon and a touch of cracked black pepper.
Red Boat Fish Sauce: Honestly, once you go Red Boat you’ll never go back. Spicy Asian dishes seem to hit the spot more than ever this time of year, and if your homemade versions of restaurant favorites are missing that certain je ne sais quoi, I can almost guarantee you’re not using enough fish sauce. Red Boat is an extra virgin, first-press example of this favorite Southeast Asian ingredient, and well, you know what they say—you’ve got to use the best ingredients to get the best results.
Mama Lil’s Sweet & Hot Peppers: These perfectly balanced, tangy, not-too-sweet, not-too-spicy little peppers are DANGEROUS. At Surdyk’s we’ve been putting them on everything from sandwiches to heaping plates of winter greens, and they never get old. Mama Lil’s Peppers add a low-cal, punchy brightness to just about any dish. These babies just might be my favorite new product of the past year.
Rancho Gordo Beans: Hearty, inexpensive, and chock-full of protein and fiber, beans are a no-brainer pantry staple for all months of the year. Contrary to popular belief, dried beans couldn’t be easier to prepare, and in my opinion, there simply isn’t a better product out there than the heirloom bean varieties from Rancho Gordo. Throw ‘em in your soup, enjoy alongside a Sunday roast, even toss some in with a salad to make a more substantial meal—beans really are the most magical of fruits.
Load up the cupboards, but don’t forget your fridge! A little sprinkle of cheese never killed anyone, and for my money (and waistline) it’s gotta be Parmigiano Reggiano. A little bit goes a long way, and while I may be detoxing this January, you won’t ever see me giving up my favorite food group. Everything in moderation.
—Emily Dunne @surdykscheese